How to revive a 500-year-old dying language

Another article about an endangered language that’s being revived, this time in Singapore: I’d never heard of Kristang, but it’s a very interesting story for anyone involved in supporting lesser-used languages.

Kristang is the language of the Portuguese Eurasians, a minority group descended from Portuguese settlers who arrived in the region in the 16th Century and married locals.
A unique creole of Portuguese and Malay, with elements of Chinese languages such as Mandarin and Hokkien, it was spoken by at least 2,000 people across the Malayan archipelago at its peak in the 19th Century.
But today there may be as little as 50 fluent speakers left, according to researchers’ estimates…

Great to hear about this movement and the growing interest in the language — including the fact that they’ve been granted funding from the Singapore government!


Yes, I spotted that. I was born in Singapore 8 years after independence and my primary levels of education were in Singapore and I recall only being taught in English and any other language was discouraged. It’s a really good sign that a minority language is being assisted in somewhere like Singapore.


Yeah. I read that a few days ago.

The main reason for its decline is that its own community has come to see it as economically irrelevant. When the British ran Singapore and what is now Malaysia, many Portuguese Eurasians found work in the civil service. English therefore came to be seen as more important than Kristang, and many began to discourage their children from speaking it. Bernard Mesenas, 78, remembers being belted as a child by his father when he was caught speaking Kristang.“My father did not like it, he said I couldn’t speak it because it would spoil my English,” he told the BBC.

Sound familiar?


Sadly, yes. :frowning2: As a student of Cornish, when I hear “Why bother learning a language that no-one speaks and that isn’t actually useful for anything?”, I feel like saying “How do you think Cornish virtually died out in the first place…??” :angry: